Over the holidays, the Rude Pundit visited with family down south in Louisiana. Amid the devouring of various sea and land animals, the consumption of far too much, yet far too little beer (God bless you, Bayou Teche Brewing Company), and the music in skeevy joints and tourist traps, he decided to go to the movies. So he and the Rude Sister and another relative or two went over to the Grand Theatre in Lafayette to see The Big Short.
You might remember the Grand because that's where a gunman killed two women and injured nine before killing himself last July. The theatre had been shut for months as the owners redid the place, and, as decent a cinema as it was before, they did right by Lafayette. The Grand's got damn comfortable seats and, hell, it's Louisiana, so you can get a frozen daiquiri in the lobby. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, especially when it's rainy and cold or swampy and hot outside.
The Family Rude was seated in the front of the main section, before the divide between the stadium seats and the ones that are much closer to the screen. About two-thirds of the way into the film, two white men, one middle-aged, one a little younger, both wearing jackets, entered the theatre and sat in the back row of that front section. They left a seat between them. The Rude Pundit and the Rude Sister almost immediately looked at each other because, well, shit, the history of the place might make you a little edgy. It didn't help that the younger one was fidgety and nervous the entire time.
Like the Rude Sister, who confirmed this later, the Rude Pundit began to plan a strategy in case something happened, in case the white men he was profiling did take out guns and open fire. Would he try to duck down? But he'd still be exposed. He wondered how to do something to protect the Rude Nieces, teenagers who were there. He checked the exits and knew that any attempt to run towards them would have been incredibly risky. He wondered if, because he had identified the potential shooters, he might be able to run towards them and at least give his family a chance to get out. He thought stupid things, like if the light on his phone might be enough to blind them for a moment. And he glanced behind him, trying to figure out if anyone there was packing, a "good guy with a gun" who would just catch everyone in crossfire.
Through all this, the Rude Pundit was fucking furious. He wasn't angry at the two men, who more than likely had just snuck into the theatre after another movie. No, he was enraged by the fact that we live in a time and in a place where we have to think these things, where we have to look at perfectly innocuous things as not just suspicious, but life-threatening. Sure, obviously, in a larger sense, we always have to be on our guard, even in a Parisian cafe or a British train station. But not to the paranoid extent that we must now, in the United States, in the time of reckless gun fetishism.
The NRA and their lickspittles in Congress want us to live this way. It's a goal to make us all so bugfuck insane about the nearly non-existent threats of violence that many will run gladly into their scabby, scarred arms to embrace the pro-gun cause and to make it their own. If you're scared, get a gun. It's a simple equation that is so prevalent in our 21st-century America that we don't even question the innate madness of it.
Lafayette was one of the cities in President Obama's litany of sites of mass shootings today when he announced the mildest of tweaks to existing gun laws through executive order. What Obama did today won't do much of anything to stem the rising tide of gun sales. It redefines "engaged in the business" of gun sales a bit more broadly so that some people who regularly sell guns can't just claim they are hobbyists and thus exempt from background checking laws. Obama is refocusing some enforcement and prosecution. And more money to the ATF can't hurt. Of course, one or two of the proposals say that he will "request" that Congress fund something, which means it's pretty much dead as a first-grader in the wrong classroom in Connecticut.
Obama said explicitly, "This is not a plot to take away everybody's guns," and every gun humper running for office and already elected and in the media and on the streets and starving in a goddamn cabin in Oregon immediately said that Obama is coming to take away the guns. Some, like Ted Cruz, just re-upped on everything they've been saying, about how Obama hates the Constitution and rights and fuck you if you don't own a freedom AR-15. And, really, it's not that different than what Alex Jones and his shit-tossers say.
This morning on NPR, people at a gun shop in Virginia were being interviewed. Even the most fervent gun buyer, a woman who was rushing to get some semi-automatic assault rifle before a fictional ban went into place, believed that there should be universal background checks. And all expressed a sad recognition that they don't know what to do about gun violence in the United States. In a gun store. As they were buying their fourth or fifth or tenth weapons.
We are no longer naive enough to believe that anything will change now. The NRA and its ass-sniffers have seen to that. Until someone is willing to crush them under their heels, the status quo will be accepting massacres as a regular part of living in the greatest country in the history of forever. Or whatever they're saying now to make us feel good about ourselves, like children who must be praised always.
By the way, The Big Short is a great film, even when one is wondering if one is going to be shot dead.